Anita Blake–Half-Latina?! Who knew!

Laurell K. Hamilton has practically copied the passage about Anita being half-Latina from previous books and pasted it into every new book of this going-on-20-book-series. The only reason I think of Anita as half-Latina is because Hamilton keeps using Anita to say that she is. The truth is I don’t believe it. For the same reason that I can sometimes tell when a white writer is trying really hard to “write” a person of color, and failing horribly–its a sixth sense. Anita Blake’s biraciality has no real importance in the series; it can easily be removed, and the story would practically be the same. Anita Blake herself is not particularly a shining example of race consciousness, neither is Hamilton by her own admission. If you took out every point where Anita has said that her mother’s side of the family is Mexicano and replaced it with something white, privileged, middleclass, and American-sounding, and possibly made Anita blonde, this story would sound more or less the same if you ask me. My disbelief cannot be surrendered or suspended.

Why do I think of Anita as white? Well, Laurell K. Hamilton doesn’t really gives me a choice. I can never shake off this sensation that Hamilton is portraying Anita Blake as white while exotifying her as part Latina. Like I’ve said before, the only thing about Anita that’s Latina is her hair and that is constantly pointed at in the books. I think if you took out the grandma and the mother and replaced Anita with a white woman there would be absolutely no difference in the series. It doesn’t help that Anita has no substantial female friends (mentors or enemies either), she is homophobic, and she either victimizes other women or is portrayed as having antagonistic relationships with almost all the women who crop up in the series, especially the few women of color. Her whole presentation is that of a white woman. I was just making a horrible joke, actually, about her hair type because even that is aligned with the curliness of Jean Claude’s hair, an ancient white Frenchman who is the complete personification of Hamilton’s complex over pretty white people in her portrayal of Anita. All it would do is make Anita less ansty about being dark-haired and white.

Overall, Anita’s presentation is that of a white woman who emerges from the mind of a white woman. I’ve always struggled with LKH saying that Anita is half-Latina but never actually feeling that it was true or, I guess I should say, I’ve struggled with feeling that her Mexicana heritage matters…because her presentation is that of a white girl. What’s even the point of mentioning in almost every book that she’s half-Latina and forcing readers to ruminate over her angst with the situation? My point overall is that, as a woman of color reading about a woman who is at least mixed, I get no sense that Anita actually thinks about race as a serious issue (outside of her angst over her beauty and her history with her grandma); her background is that of a privileged, middleclass American white girl. As a half-white person (just plain white as an extension of Hamilton’s consciouness), race is something she can ignore if she wants.

Again, I continue to struggle with LKH saying that Anita is half-Latina but never actually feeling that it’s true. I don’t really intend to keep giving LKH my money, so I don’t know if this will change. I’ve stopped at Bullet and committed myself to not buying anymore.

Anita’s Mexican mother married a blond-haired, blue-eyed white man, Anita herself is pale as a sheet and its constantly alluded to over the course of the series, she surrounded by white people all the time, all her boyfriends are white, her background is pretty WASP. She’s white.

I’m through.

ever more real,

MsQ

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8 thoughts on “Anita Blake–Half-Latina?! Who knew!

  1. Ah, yes: the politics of cultural/racial identity. Clearly, Anita’s culture is not Mexican since she never mentions anything intrinsic to Anita’s cultural identity that could be Mexican, that I remember. I assume that LKH will argue that Anita’s mother died too early to teach her.

    You could be right about LKH being half Mexican. She has admitted to many other personality traits and core beliefs that are hers, therefore Anita’s on her blog, so why not throw in half Mexican because she is, too. That is definitely her prerogative since it is her world.

    So, other than the fact that LKH is using Anita to proclaim that she is partially Mexican, there really isn’t any cultural evidence given for Anita to consider herself Mexican in the books. And, other than possibly stereotypical Mexican physical attributes (of course, not all Mexicanas have dark, curly hair with petite, curvy bodies to match!), Anita is just white.

    Her former fiancé’s mother did not agree, however. To the mother, Mexican isn’t just a culture, it really is a race, as many Latino-Americans would assert. Clearly, it was a surprise to Anita since she was so devastated when her fiancé broke the engagement because Mommy Bigoted did not approve.

    I think, in general, that’s about all we are going to get from Anita/LKH when it comes to race unless she decides to pump out an ABVH goes to Mexico, thus discovers her heritage, book. She seems more interested in gender and sexual politics than race or culture, i.e., “You’re giving me a hard time, Marshal Joystick, because I have 27 boyfriends, but you’ll never be one of them,” or “Officer Dumb-ass is just jealous because I have more vampire kills than anyone despite my petite, china doll beauty.”

    Finally, (I know, FINALLY!!!), just a little note. My husband is Mexican-American, but doesn’t speak Spanish. Believe me, sometimes, many times, this is more of a problem for other Latinos than the fact that I am black. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, I guess. Also, when we were in Germany, he was constantly mistaken as German by Germans! Life is interesting, no?

    • I don’t know if LKH is half-Mexican, and if she is, that might be a surprise to me. But then, like you said, it would make sense about why she includes it in the story at all. I just see it as Hamilton as a white woman using this racial-poltical identifier as an exotic gimmick. That doesn’t make me very happy. It would add her to the masses of white writers that “write” people of color and biracial/multiracial characters (badly) and make money off it. Its like a white person inside of Mexican person inside of a white persons head or how they just change the hair and eye color of Barbie dolls and dip them in brown plastic.

      As you said, and I agree, the fact that Anita is more interested in gender and sex politics rather than race or culture is a bit of an issue. Its very white mainstream feminist way of thinking, although I can get on board with it just to fly in the face of Officers Dumbass and Joystick, lol ^_^.

      Thinking of what you shared about your husband, I don’t want to be essentialist or suggest that Latin@s have to have this or that characteristic in order to be sufficiently considered Latin@. What I am saying, and you said it very nicely, is that there isn’t any linking between Anita and Latin American culture–at all, other than LKH/Anita continuing to say book after book that her mother and grandma’s side of the family is Mexicano when everything about Anita is white, American, and middleclass, right down to the color of her skin.

      And no worries, its the page format that makes your messages look so long! Besides I like hearing from other readers and writers. I’m in kind of an awkward area because I read semi-academically and with race consciousness and not many people do that.

      • Exotic gimmick? Perhaps. I find myself imagining how disappointing a dark, erotic paranormal romance from me would be to racially conscious readers. Factually, many of my discussion worthy experiences concerning culture/race as an adult have had to do with me disappointing another black person. I’m a classical musician. I have been called a sell out, though obliquely.

        I don’t think my protagonist would be some hollow, chocolaty Barbie doll. Nevertheless, a heroine based on my life would not be involved in many activities that could be considered culturally black other than the same thing we do every night, MsQ––try to take over the world!

        No, I’m not trying to let Hamilton off the hook that easily. Since Anita’s Mexican heritage is only hair deep, as far as any reader can tell, I do think it’s pitiful that after 20 books Anita cannot seem to obsess about licking all over somebody with skin like mocha gelato as well as all she does about her alabaster vampires. Seriously, her loss.

        What disturbs me more than Anita’s seemingly useless Mexican identity is her/Hamilton’s lack of racial intimacy. I remember reading that she was happy that Anita’s condom usage helped a reader be bold to ask the same of her new partner without hesitation. I think if Anita took on a lover of another race that is not a mere nod to racial diversity, some of her audience may have their hearts and minds opened to new possibilities. I believe Hamilton is too well established as a successful writer not to take on the challenge.

      • Personal Aside

        You know, I was thinking the same thing about myself, Jan. I don’t think I would be considered a sellout by most Black people but I would probably be labeled as uppity and too high-minded. Sometimes, the best writing comes from those who write from their experiences and in the end that’s all you really can do. But I like to do more and wish others would too–I call it ‘reaching for the fantastical’. But thats because I’m a literary/fantasy fiction writer, it shows in my writing.

        On the one end of writing, you have people writing completely from what they know and on the other end you have people trying too hard to write what they don’t know anything about. There’s rarely any in-between or true ingenuity.

        I don’t write hero(ines) based off my life so much as I write them based off my experiences and what I can gather of the experiences of other women, particularly those of color. I write with passion, feeling, and socio-political intent (not everybody does, wants to, or knows how). Like I said before, I don’t want to suggest that there’s some essential Blackness that Black writers should be writing to. I write towards what I think is culturally relevant because those are huge parts of my experiences. I may never be published because I don’t write to the contemporary Black market’s standards or even in a way that’s digestable for white audiences. Still, I know my fiction writing means something and its so strong that it has that potential.

        I love string music, I have a violin (though it isn’t very expensive/of the ‘best’ quality) but I’m afraid to get a teacher because I’m afraid that they’ll be some snobby, stuckup Eurocentric so-and-so that claps me over the head with a baton and yells “you’re just not getting it!”. Though I love the big bands and R&B, jazz, and a little of the rap pervasive here in the South, I never have been much of a clarinet, drum, or saxophone type. I also love rock/hard rock, some Japanese rock and pop (typically with an R&B feel), techno/trance, and ‘drama-filled angelic choral’ music–all things that aren’t typically considered ‘Black’. I think I bring those two things together–what’s considered ‘culturally Black’ and what I also love that isn’t typically considered that. I worry that my way of thinking is just mismatched, counter-cultural, and anachronistic, constantly.

      • LKH/Anita Commentary

        What I like about your comment is that acknowledgement of both sides of things. Sometimes, no matter who you are, its just impossible to bend yourself to figure out and write what is ‘culturally relevant’ when you’ve never experienced it for yourself or don’t feel inclined to do so even if you could.

        On the other hand, like you said, I do agree its ridiculous that after all this time, though she brings up Anita’s Mexicana heritage every other book, that she only goes for the white guys. And it really is her loss, seriously. Hamilton is a talented, skilled, and established writer. My beef with her is that she has the opportunity to do as you have said, and open up the minds and hearts of her readership with that kind of racial intimacy in her writing, and she has not (except for rushed sex with Raphael that one time in The Harlequin and I don’t really count that even if it was kind of hot….)

  2. Pingback: My thought pool on the LKH Anita Blake series « Elia's Diamonds

  3. LKH isn’t half Mexican. She’s actually lamented about being white and wished she wasn’t (because “boring”), so by making Anita half-Mexican (but not TOO Mexican) was kind of her way of fetishizing it.

    • At the time I wrote this post, I think I was trying to give her lineage the benefit of the doubt, but I guarantee you, I understand she’s just another uber-privileged racist white writer failing characters of Color and readers of Color every time she writes a new book. At least I feel like she failed me which is why I no longer buy her books.

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